I’m Turning 65, What Do I Need to Do?
This article was updated on: 11/17/2015
For most people, turning 65 means you’re eligible for Original Medicare, Part A and Part B. This federal program provides hospital insurance and some medical insurance to older Americans and those under 65 with certain disabilities.
At this time, you may also choose to enroll in Medicare Part C, also called Medicare Advantage. These plans are available from private insurance companies and must offer the same benefits as Part A and Part B, but may add more coverage such as vision, dental, or prescription drug benefits. Or you could add a stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plan to your Original Medicare to receive prescription medication coverage. Medicare Supplement insurance (called Medigap) is also available to add to your Medicare coverage and help cover the “gaps” in Original Medicare.
Automatically enrolling in Original Medicare
You may automatically get Medicare Part A and Part B benefits if you’re turning 65 and you are already getting retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration or the Railroad Retirement Board. If you’re under 65, you can apply for Medicare Part A and Part B through Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board at the same time that you apply for retirement benefits.
If this is the case, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Medicare when you turn 65, and you don’t need to submit another application. Your red, white, and blue Medicare card will be mailed to you three months before your 65th birthday, and your benefits will start on the first day of the month you turn 65. If your birthday is on the first of the month, then your benefits start on the first day of the previous month.
Manually enrolling in Original Medicare
If you aren’t getting retirement benefits yet, you will need to sign up manually for Medicare Part A and/or Part B through Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board:
- Visit the Social Security website. You can apply for Medicare only if you’re not yet ready to receive retirement benefits.
- Call Social Security at1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, from 7AM to 7PM. TTY users can call 1-800-325-0778.
- Apply in person at your local Social Security office.
- If you worked for a railroad, you can apply for Medicare through the Railroad Retirement Board at 1-877-772-5772, Monday through Friday, from 9AM to 3:30PM. TTY users can dial 1-312-751-4701.
First-time Medicare beneficiaries have what is called an Initial Enrollment Period. This period starts three months prior to your 65th birthday, includes your birth month, and extends three months after your birth month. It’s important to enroll during this time. If you do not enroll during the Initial Enrollment Period, you may incur late fees or have to wait until the General Enrollment Period between January 1 to March 31 of the following year.
If you or your spouse are still working when you turn 65 and you have health insurance through this employer, you might consider delaying enrollment in Part B. You may not wish to pay the Part B premium if you don’t need the coverage.. Contact your current employer’s benefits department to see if that coverage is sufficient and find out how it might work with Medicare Part B before making a decision.
When your employer coverage ends, you will be provided with a Special Enrollment Period that lasts eight months to sign up for Medicare Part B without incurring a penalty.
Enrolling in additional Medicare coverage
After you’ve enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B, you can enhance this coverage with a Medigap plan and prescription drug coverage through a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. Or you could choose to get your all your coverage in the form of a Medicare Advantage plan, with or without prescription drug benefits.
Need help sorting through the options, now that you’re turning 65? That’s what I’m here for. To learn more about my background as a licensed insurance agent and why I enjoy helping people get answers, see my profile using the “View profile” link below. When you feel ready, reach out to me for a phone appointment or an email containing plans that could work for you; the links to set those up are below too. Or browse through plans yourself by clicking on the Compare Plans buttons on this page. If you have more specific questions or would like help selecting a plan, call Medicare.com’s licensed insurance agents at 1-844-847-2659, TTY users 711; Monday through Friday, 8AM to 8PM ET.